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New Ulm Medical Center

Allina and ‘Free Bikes 4 Kidz’ help children in need

Do you remember your first bike? It’s a memory to be treasured — and a joy many children haven’t yet experienced during these difficult economic times.

New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) and Allina Hospitals & Clinics want to make this rite of passage a reality for more than thousands of kids this year. So, they again partnering with Free Bikes 4 Kidz (FB4K), a nonprofit that gives donated, refurbished bikes to families in need, free of charge.

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A storage locker full of donated bikes sits ready to be refurbished and then redistributed (along with helmets) to area children in need. The Free Bikes 4 Kiz program is part of the Allina Hospitals & Clinics Community Engagement initiative.

“It’s part of helping kids achieve active living — and making the holidays brighter for area families,” said Ellie Zuehlke, Allina’s Community Benefit & Engagement director. “The effort also helps with sustainability by reusing bikes rather than buying new.”

Re-‘cycling’ at its best

Kids outgrow bikes quickly. Zuehlke added, “And these bikes are still perfectly usable. They just need a little love.”

In October, NUMC collected almost 100 used (and new) bikes during two different donation days. One generous NUMC employee even went so far as to collect 24 bikes herself from friends and family. “It was incredible to see that one person show up with a trailer full of bikes,” said NUMC Community Engagement Lead Carisa Buegler. “We had several other people who brought more than one bike and a couple who bought brand new bikes to donate.”

Most of these bikes will be refurbished and those that can’t be refurbished will be a valuable resource for finding parts to fix up the other bikes. At a December distribution event, kids will be fitted for new bikes and learn safety tips.

“Every child or teen who receives a bike will receive a free bike helmet, too,” said Kimberly Radel, Community Engagement director, Allina West Metro. “We want kids to get active — but be safe doing it.”

The joy of giving

Allina employees and area families felt great about “recycling” bikes through this annual drive last year. Parents and guardians were excited about giving the bikes as gifts, too. Wrote one, “I can’t wait for Christmas. It’s my gift for the kids.” Said another,“My daughter’s birthday is next week. She is going to love it.”

Across the entire Allina system, more than 4,000 bikes were collected through this initiative this year.